San Jose scrapyard owner agrees to settlement but not charged in catalytic converter theft investigation

A scrapyard in San Jose at the center of an investigation into stolen catalytic converters has agreed to settle with the City. This caps a year-long investigation that included an undercover police operation. 

The City of San Jose says they found no evidence of wrongdoing and now the owner’s attorney is talking about why they decided to settle the case.  

Joseph Chen was facing a public nuisance, shut-down order last year as police investigated who was stealing catalytic converters in San Jose. But the city says they never found evidence against Chen and now through his attorney, he wants to clear his name.  

"They charged Joseph Chen with a crime, that case was dismissed," said James Roberts, Chen's attorney.     

Chen owns Tung Tai Group, which operates a metal scrapyard on Rogers Avenue.  

"The police came out and did a complete search of that property and found no catalytic converters, period. They found no evidence of catalytic converters ever being there. They found no evidence of catalytic converters ever being sold there. They found no evidence that Tung Tai had ever even recycled catalytic converters there," Roberts said.   

Roberts says paying San Jose $2,500 was the most cost-effective way for Chen to close the nuisance complaint filed by the city. As a part of the settlement, San Jose Police will have to remove Chen’s name from its website and social media pages. San Jose’s City Attorney also confirmed no evidence of theft was found, and the settlement includes an injunction requiring Chen to follow compliance codes. 

The Bay Area has been hit hard by catalytic converter thefts in the last few years and Pham says he doesn’t see the issue being resolved anytime soon. 

"This is a catalytic converter that was cut off a Nissan. What they’re after is the substrate inside. That honeycomb material that’s inside the catalytic converter," said Sean Pham, owner of Keystone Auto Service in Santa Clara. 

Pham says already this year, he’s had 10 customers who’ve had their catalytic converters stolen.  

"It’s unfortunate. A lot of these manufacturers, they designed the cars not thinking that it was going to get stolen, and these guys have found ways to go about doing it. The downside is as a consumer, you’re now stuck with the bill because not many people know that insurance companies may not cover this type of theft at all," Pham said.   

KTVU also asked Roberts about a stolen park statue found at Chen’s scrapyard. He says people leave items at the yard all the time if they can’t sell it and Chen had nothing to do with the statue being removed nor did he pay any money for it. 


'No recourse:' Catalytic converter thieves hit victims over and over in Bay Area

Victims of catalytic convert theft tell KTVU they’ve been hit 6, 7, 8 times or more. And at hundreds of dollars a pop for insurance deductibles, the costs rack up.